Please welcome back to DCC, guest blogger Jared Bradley. As you know, Jared is the President and CEO of M-Vac Systems, Inc. What you may not know is that he served 14 years with the US Army and Army Reserves, achieving the rank of Captain.
Since leading M-Vac Systems into the forensic market, Jared had the opportunity to demonstrate the M-Vac to various police departments around the world and teach about wet-vacuum DNA collection.
With such a fast-moving industry and globetrotting, I thought it was time that Jared gave us an update on the M-Vac and the impact it has on solving old cases.
M-Vac, a cold case murder, and a true crime show by Jared Bradley.
Not sure if any of you have ever received a direct message from our favorite Defrosting Cold Cases editor, but it is a thrill. The one I got around the end of February was in response to messages I had put out about the Krystal Beslanowitch case airing on the premier of Forensic Files II. In the message Alice said “Guest blog again? A walk down memory lane, how it started, the first cases, the first verdicts etc.?” Of course, I said “SURE!.”
Despite the excitement and intent on cranking this out, little did I know we would get slammed by this crazy corona-virus and it would throw us all off any semblance of a normal track!
But here we are, two plus months later and life has calmed down enough that I can sit down and reflect on what it is like to see our forensic DNA collection system on THE true crime show, especially knowing millions of people were watching it! Believe me, it is nerve wracking! Why you might ask? It is not because of the case.
We have known the outcome of the case for several years, how it happened and the pivotal role the M-Vac system played in solving it. We knew the M-Vac collected 42 times more touch DNA material than needed to generate a full profile, from rough, porous, granite rocks that had yielded next to nothing with the swabbing method. We knew much of that DNA was from one man, Joseph Simpson, and that he had been convicted and sentenced to life without parole for killing Krystal.
What we DIDN’T know was how well the show would portray the system. When the show’s producer first called us early last year, she assured us Forensic Files prides themselves in recreating the case story and displaying the technologies used with enough detail that law enforcement agencies request videos to use as training tools. Despite being burned by other shows in the past, we decided to give it a shot. Especially when they promised us, they would not substitute the M-Vac, like another show had, for a cheap dry vacuum system that could never collect what the M-Vac did in this case. Not sure I could handle another disaster like that one!
So, on February 23rd I was sitting in my living room, watching the show with my family praying for the case to be portrayed well. And Forensic Files II did not disappoint! In fact, I thought they knocked it out of the park. Watching Sheriff Bonner describe the brutal crime scene reminded me of when he personally took me to where he first saw Krystal laying there next to the Provo River. Pictures of the bloody rocks that Simpson used to bludgeon her to death vividly recreated how horrible it must have been for Krystal on that cold December night. Then the pain and frustration, from Sheriff Bonner and other investigators, in not being able to solve the case and bring Krystal’s killer to justice, despite the endless hours of investigating every lead.
Then, as every cold case investigator dreams off, they caught a break. One of the investigators saw a local news piece on the M-Vac system and it hit him that this innovative technology may be the answer to get the suspects DNA from the rough and porous rocks that were used as the murder weapons. He contacted a local private lab that owned an M-Vac and asked about it, and that started the dominoes falling that eventually led to a conviction!
So, why was I so nervous? Mostly because I do not want any investigator, especially a cold case detective, to get the wrong impression about a tool that could help his/her case. There are so many cases out there that I know the M-Vac can help, and will help, it is almost overwhelming. Everyone knows DNA is the new gold standard, and for many, getting it off the evidence surfaces is the primary problem. What better to use than a wet-vacuum?
The solution mixes with the DNA material, helping it to loosen from the surface, and then the vacuum pressure sucks it up. A straightforward process with profound results. But that process can be dramatically misrepresented and that is what I was so nervous about that night. Fortunately, my fears were unfounded, and that night millions of people saw an amazing recreation of the crime, the investigation, and the results.
I wish I could tell you about all the cases that the M-Vac has successfully advanced. There are hundreds! Most are trapped in the court system pending trial so we only know details about a few of them. But they are out there, and the dam will break soon. The Beslanowitch case has gone through the appellate courts and was upheld so that is a huge feather in the M-Vac’s cap!
There are many more in the lower courts. Such as a murder where the victim was bludgeoned with several decorative bricks and pavers you would use in your yard – touch DNA; another murder where a grandmother was stabbed so deeply the suspects hand came into contact with her nightshirt despite the knife having a pronounced hilt – touch DNA; a serial killer in Asia who tied up and beat a number of women to death; a female victim who was shot while knocking on the door of her friend’s apartment, dragged into another room and shot again – touch DNA; a female victim who was attacked by her landlord, gagged and blindfolded, raped and murdered, and left for her mother to find. It was a cold case for almost 40 years – touch DNA; and the list goes on and on.
Cases, especially cold cases, are a powerful testament of the effectiveness of many developing technologies and techniques. Our very own Alice de Sturler and her methods of analyzing, organizing, and evaluating a case speaks for itself. Add to her incredible methodologies, the ability to collect DNA from any surface, the increased sensitivity of lab processes, genealogical DNA, lifting fingerprinting from metallic surfaces even after they were wiped, 3D mapping a crime scene etc. etc., all add to solving more cases. And the data is flowing!
With every recent technology comes data to support it, and the M-Vac is no exception. Sometime this year we are expecting the most robust M-Vac-swab-taping comparison trial to be published in a peer reviewed journal, and the results are going to be eye-popping to anyone who has ever questioned the M-Vac system’s efficacy. The fact that this trial was conducted by a well-known federal agency will certainly add to its credibility as well! If you would like a preview, search M-Vac and 2019 ISHI Conference (hint, hint).
The bottom line is it is a great time to be involved with and following true crime, law enforcement, investigations, and forensics right now. The popularity of shows like Live PD, Forensic Files II (which just got picked up for another two seasons btw, so stay tuned for more M-Vac cases!), The First 48 hrs, and many others, show us that the everyday citizen is mesmerized by the process of solving crimes and protecting communities.
Gone are the days of the forensic scientists and CSIs being the lowest rung on their prospective ladders. Being able to piece together the puzzle of a horrendous crime, using the latest technologies and investigative techniques is now an art-form worthy of watching by the masses, and it is a great feeling to be a part of that!
Thanks, Alice, for the chance to be a part of your world and keep up the great work!